A Matter of Some Urgency

09.17.2009 | 3:50 pm

A Note from Fatty: A couple days ago I wrote a post called “How to Help a Loved One Starting Cancer Treatment ,” and got phenomenally helpful and insightful response. Thanks to everyone who posted their thoughts. Based on this discussion, the blog 100 Pounds Ago did a post called “What to Do When You Have to Call 911 For a Loved One.” It’s very useful advice, and something that every caretaker should read.

A Matter of Some Urgency

Technically, it is not yet Autumn. But the mountains here — foolish, non-calendar-watching mountains! — seem to think it is. The colors are changing, and they’re changing fast.

And the air is different. Even when it’s hot outside — and it’s still hot outside during the day — you don’t feel like the sun is trying to wring every last drop of water out of you.

And today, for example, the temperature was not hot. Nor was it cold. It was perfect. For four hours, as I rode Pole Line Pass — a remarkable stretch of singletrack at 9,000 feet that has to be earned with about two hours of climbing — I never thought about the temperature.

You see, it rained two days ago, so the trail was perfect today. And the sky was blue. And there was just a hint of a breeze. And the temperature felt like it stayed at about 70 (fahrenheit, thankfully) the whole time.

Today was, in short, a perfect day for riding. I have photos:

The trailhead is at Tibble Fork reservoir. This is about a fifteen minute drive from my house. You think I picked Alpine, Utah to live at random? Ha.

After dirt road climbing for several miles, you turn off onto the singletrack, and are immediately rewarded with this view. The leaves haven’t really started changing in earnest up this high.

And then, from high mountain meadow, suddenly — wham — you’re in forest singletrack. The transition is sudden, astonishing, and wonderful. I hereby proclaim that forest singletrack is my favorite kind of trail.

And then the trail takes you through a tunnel of aspen, just starting to turn yellow at the edges.

From time to time, the trail takes you around a corner, opening up to a vista that just stuns you into saying the obvious. “Wow,” you say to yourself. “Those mountains are big.”

As the descent brings you back down toward the reservoir, the trees and undergrowth get thicker, and the red leaves start showing up in earnest.

I love when the mountain is in the middle of the transition from green to red.

And I love even more seeing when an individual tree is in the middle of that transition.

By the time you get back down to the reservoir, the color changes are really starting to ramp up. They’ll be at their best in a week or two.

Then, after the ride, you get to feel smug about where you’ve just ridden and what you’ve just seen.

My point is this: If you live near or in the mountains, you probably have a trail not too different from Pole Line Pass — one that takes you through lots of different kinds of trails and trees. Now is the time to go ride that trail. Cancel appointments, take a vacation day, scramble the jets. There is no better time than early Autumn to be a mountain biker. You know this is true.

It is urgent you go ride, before it is too late.

And for those of you who don’t live near the mountains, this is a really great time of year for you to envy those of us who do.


An Open Letter to VeloNews

09.16.2009 | 1:28 pm

Dear VeloNews,

As a big fan of both your magazine and of Assos clothing, I was very excited to receive the special “All-Assos, All the Time” edition of your fine publication last month.

200909161107.jpgAnd while I was (moderately) pleased with the text you saw fit to place on the cover of your magazine — “Assos Precision” — I was disappointed you chose only the top-center of the cover of the magazine for that headline. Why not something more prominent? I mean, since you included Assos in no fewer than three articles, don’t you think you could have included a photograph on the cover, as well?

Also, you could have added exclamation marks to emphasize the endorsement: “Assos Precision!!!” Or better yet, “Assos is Very Awesome! And We Love Them Very Much!” This, after all, pretty much the substance of the articles in the magazine, so why not reflect that on the cover?

So what gives, VeloNews?

Table of Contents Treatment

200909161118.jpgWhile I am disappointed with the way you seem to be showing some restraint with your — absolutely justified — love for all things Assos on the front cover, I am pleased to see that you are at least trying to make amends by the time you get to the Table of Contents: “Threading the Needle: Assos means quality in any language.”

You see, that’s the kind of language I expect and require from the non-biased journal of competitive cycling. Something that plainly and simply endorses an extra-awesome clothing manufacturer. And since your statement is self-evident, I think it’s great that you don’t worry about actually substantiating that claim in the articles themselves by actually assessing whether the clothing is worth what you pay for it. Hey, if people need information, that’s what the ad’s for, right? (By the way, when you get a moment, could you please tell me what that ad means?)

200909161320.jpgThe Fashion Show

I admit to being a little bit concerned when I saw your first editorial mention of Assos in the September issue was little more than a photograph and blurb. Here’s what I think you should have written instead:

“The trim-fit jersey has reflective detailing, full-front wind protection, and a zippered security pocket. NO OTHER JERSEY IN THE WORLD HAS ANY OF THESE THINGS, AND ALSO THE OTHER JERSEYS WILL CAUSE BADGERS TO ATTACK YOU.”

I was, however, gratified to see that you did note the vest adds wind protection — it’s about time a clothing manufacturer realizes that cyclists want wind protection from their vests. I swear, I am so sick of all these vests I’ve got that provide no wind protection whatsoever. Sheesh!

And I’ll bet that formed collar doesn’t just keep out the chill. I’ll bet it also looks sexy as heck. You probably should have mentioned that, too. But I’m going to let it slide, because I know you’ve got to maintain your editorial integrity. Which you’re doing a smash-up job of, by the way.

Analysis of Your Hard-Hitting Assos Expose

I have to say, VeloNews, that I really enjoyed your first story on how much you love Assos: “Threading the Needle: After 33 years, Assos sets the bar for luxury cycling clothing.”

200909161203.jpg  200909161205.jpg  

I learned a lot of important things from this article, all of which help reinforce my deep and certain knowledge that Assos is the best clothing manufacturer that has ever existed. For example:

  • While many companies have relocated their manufacturing to Asia, Assos has chosen to continue producing clothing locally to maintain quality control.” This reinforces my long-held belief that it is impossible to maintain quality control over things that are produced anywhere but right at home.
  • The clothing line itself is largely manufactured in Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Italy.” Um, those Slovenians are awesome! Much more awesome than Asia. And it’s not really not all that important to have your clothes actually manufactured locally, anyway.
  • The aesthetic is tidy, modern Swiss, with polished concrete floors, stainless steel kitchen appliances [...] and a white, silver and black color scheme that’s applied to everything, a harmonic blend of Italian and Swiss.” It always has been and always will be of utmost importance to me to know the quality of my clothing manufacturer’s kitchen appliances. And it’s nice to finally know this white / black / silver thing that’s so new and fresh has a hybrid nationality. The next time I go to an Ikea, I’m going to let them know that they’re actually Swiss-Italian, not Swedish. Or Goth.
  • The freshly detailed Audis and Mercedes in the parking lot betray stereotypically Swiss sensibilities.” I love knowing that the people behind my favorite clothing line are driving very expensive cars, because that tells me they really love cycling! And that they fit neatly into nationality stereotypes!
  • Roche plays a major role in design and testing, taking new samples out for long rides around Lake Como and critiquing minute details to ensure the highest quality.” That, VeloNews, is truly innovative. I am quite certain that no other bike clothing manufacturer actually has people try on and use clothing prototypes. Frankly, my mind is still boggling that this idea occurred to them. What will Assos think of next?
  • A Gyrowash simulates hundreds of normal washes to see how things hold up in the laundry.” I’m relieved to know this, because, like many (most?) Assos clothing owners, I generally wash my clothes over and over and over without using them in between.

You know what, VeloNews? You totally got it right. Assos really does set the bar for luxury cycling clothing. You proved it, by not mentioning — apart from vague “other company” generalities — where that bar is set, how others compare, or even what “luxury” means in this context. (This is a question I’ve had for some time).

And I’d go so far as to say that this article sets the bar for luxury journalism.

200909161249.jpgAnalysis of “Tested: The Assos SS.13 Jersey ($319) and F1.13 S5 Bib Short ($359)

One thing I really appreciate about your coverage, VeloNews, is that you’re willing to stay focused. Hot on the heels of your hard-nosed investigative report into Assos’ kitchen decor, you’ve got…another article about how much you like Assos. This time, you help me make purchase decisions by telling me that:

  • My mother bought me my first pair of Assos shorts.” It is not clear whether she took out a second mortgage in order to make this purchase, but I think we’ll just go ahead and assume she did. And it was darn well worth it.
  • The fit of these things is so plush it’s worth enduring the chin music from my chucklehead bunch of riding buddies.” I’m not even sure what to say here, except that I hope your buddies have learned their lesson.
  • …The thick padding that goes under your seat bones is actually under your seat bones, not rotated up under your waist.” Actually, the problem I have is that the thick padding from other manufacturers (perish the thought) tends to drift down toward my kneecaps. Curse them! Let’s agree that Assos is the only company that has ever successfully managed to get a chamois between a butt and a saddle. Nobody else has even come close.
  • “True to Assos form, there are all manner of small details, such as a small, zippered pocket with a hole for headphones, reflective tabs, two small side pockets in addition to the standard back three, and a loop of fabric at the bottom of the jersey to prevent wear against your bibs.” What’s really amazing to me is that they were able to get the headphones, tabs, pockets, and the all-important fabric loop into that little hole.
  • “In all this is a fine kit. So, um, mom?” In all fairness, you should probably check with her first to see if she’s paid off the first kit yet.

After reading this, I have to ask myself: am I ready to spend $678 on this shorts/jersey combo?

And then the answer comes: Who isn’t?


VeloNews, I know you tried your best to give Assos a fair shake with your September issue, but let’s face it, you were unnecessarily hard on them, what with all the research, follow-up questions and comparisons and rigorous testing. Next time, you may want to take it a little easier on them.

I look forward to your December 200-page “Nothing But Assos” issue with great anticipation.

Kind Regards,

The Fat Cyclist

How to Help a Loved One Starting Cancer Treatment

09.15.2009 | 9:31 am

A couple weeks ago, a Fat Cyclist reader emailed me, telling me his mom had breast cancer and was about to start treatment. “Any advice or help is appreciated,” he said.

So I started listing a few ideas. Before long, I realized that this, in fact, is something I could probably write a pretty good book on now. One that could do a lot of people a lot of good.

The thing is, most of what I have learned I got the hard way. So, in the hope that someone might remember this and pass it along at some point, I’m going to start recording some of my ideas on taking care of a loved one with cancer.

This is the list — stuff that immediately popped into my head — I sent to the reader, so I’m referring to his mom throughout. Of course, all of this applies just as well to any loved one, of either gender.

And of course this list is hardly inclusive, and the numbering isn’t by rank or chronology; it’s just the order the thoughts occurred to me.

I have a feeling this is probably the first in a series.

1. Be proactive on the hair. When the time’s right, ask her if she’d rather have a wig, scarves, or knitted caps or baseball caps. And then be prepared for that answer to change mid-course (Susan thought she’d want a wig, but in practice never used it — too heavy, hot, and itchy). If it’s a wig, take her wig shopping before her hair comes out. If caps, pick some out for her. If scarves, order a bunch. And then tell her that when her hair starts coming out that if she wants to get rid of it before it gets “patchy,” that you’d be more than happy to do that for her. Treat it as a “taking charge” moment; she’s getting rid of the hair before it becomes a nuisance (and if you don’t shave it off, it will become a nuisance as it starts falling off in big batches — trust me, it’s much more distressing to have it fall out on your clothes than to take steps and do it yourself).

2. Buy some pill containers and a notebook. Your mom’s going to get “chemo brain” and won’t have an easy time remembering what she took and when. So divvy out the pills into the little containers and draw up a grid on the notebook pages: hours going down rows, pill types for columns. Maybe get her something that reminds here when to take what (at first I set recurring appointments on my wife’s iPhone). In other words, work out a system that makes it easy for your mom to take the pills, and for whoever’s with her to track what she took and when.

3. Get ready to make some adjustments for comfort. Bright lights might become painful, so be ready to get heavier curtains. Food might become altogether distasteful, so get ready to buy some Ensure or something else easy and fast to get down.

4. Get ready to run interference. Lots of friends and family might want to come by to be helpful. Your mom will sometimes not be in the mood to see anyone at all. Be ready to block people at the door, even if they want to see her “just for a minute.”

5. Learn to sit still. When your mom is having treatment — chemo or radiation — she’s going to be tired and won’t be able to do much. When you visit, the temptation will be to run around the house and do errands and stuff. That’s OK sometimes. Make sure, though, you also just hang out, sitting there with her, either talking or watching a show or reading a book while she sleeps. For Susan at least, having someone present and comfortable with her — even when she was exhausted and unable to do anything — meant more than having a clean house / stocked fridge.

6. When your mom says this sucks, agree with her.

7. Realize that the last chemo is not the finish line. She’s going to feel beaten down and crappy for at least a couple months after the last chemo. Be ready to have the worst days be shortly after the last chemo, and for it to take a while for her to start feeling better.

8. Once the physical manifestations of the chemo are gone, look for signs of depression. It’s incredibly common. Be ready to treat those symptoms as a chemical, medical problem, as well as an emotional one. She’s been put through the wringer in every possible way.

Your Turn

I know I am not the only one who has taken care of a loved one with cancer. What advice would you give to someone who’s about to take care of someone starting treatment?

2010 Gary Fisher Ride Camp: This Time We Ride

09.14.2009 | 6:48 am

There are many good things about being The Fat Cyclist. Chief among these, of course, is being able to introduce myself by name (“Hi, I’m Elden Nelson”), and then follow it up with my nickname (“But please, feel free to call me ‘Fatty.’”). It catches people off-guard, making it much easier for me to ask them to loan me money.

Last weekend, I told lots of cycling celebrities — some of them very nearly as famous as I — to call me Fatty.

For example, I am now good friends with US National champs Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Heather Irmiger, not to mention MTB Hall-o-Famer Travis Brown. Check us out:


The four of us walked around like that — arm and arm, all smiles, with me snugly between (husband and wife) Jeremy and Heather — for hours.

When we were riding together, I made a case — at some length, and in exciting detail — for why Jeremy and Heather should ride a tandem at the Leadville 100 next year. Yes, I really did. Here I am, recapping, just in case my points were not entirely clear the first three times I made them (Gary’s in the background left of the below photo, clearly wishing he could join the conversation):


They said they would take the idea under advisement. (And no, I have no idea what the guy in the blue jersey (an editor from Bicycling) is doing in this photo.)

After our time together, they were very sad to see me go. We exchanged numbers. I was certainly surprised to find that all three of them had the area code 555!

I also got to meet Jesse, who did the artwork for the bikes and jerseys — the very best-looking designs Fisher has ever produced, in my award-winning opinion — you’ll see in all the pictures below. I


Knowing that he might be there, I made certain to wear my Bare Knuckle Brigade jersey. And to suck my gut in so hard that my neck bulged.

Jesse, by the way, has a 2010 Superfly Singlespeed built up at 16.5 pounds. That’s the same weight as a nice light road bike, folks. ‘Course, to do this, he put on super skinny tires, which I rolled my eyes at. And then he crushed the singletrack — including all the rough rocky stuff — the whole time.

But I’m still going to use really fat tires.

Oh, by the way, you know who the rider in the background in that picture is? Gary Fisher.

SuperFly 100 Impressions

Of course, the real reason I was there was to get a picture of me getting headlocked by Gary Fisher (mission accomplished within the first 15 minutes, by the way), but I was also there to see and ride really nice bikes at other peoples’ expense.

Oh, you have no idea how wonderful it feels to be able to say that. I believe I will say it again: I was riding really nice bikes at other peoples’ expense.

I’d say it a third time, but I’m afraid you might begin to suspect I am gloating.

The first bike I took out was the new full-suspension version of the Superfly: The Superfly 100.


It took about fifteen minutes of riding for me to feel comfortable on this bike, during which I shoulder-kissed a tree and did an unintentional nose-wheelie into a boulder. I claim that the reason I was riding like it was a game of pinball is that I was unused to the complexity of gears and suspension. After all, I’ve been riding rigid single most of the year; this felt a little foreign to me.

The truth is, though, I think I was a little over-amped. (Caffeine is your friend, until it’s not.)

Once I had been on the bike a few minutes, though, I started liking it. A lot. With the front end locked out I got comfortable with climbing fairly quickly. No, it’s doesn’t feel as direct as a hardtail, but it does feel good — you can still feel the trail characteristics beneath you; they’re just muted.

And downhilling is a lot of fun with this bike. If you’re used to — and like — the Fisher geometry, this bike feels very comfortable descending. Like a Paragon or a Superfly, but you can hit bigger stuff.

I love my hardtails, but this bike does make me think about suspension.

And the trails were OK, I suppose.


This is my friend Gary Fisher, riding past me. He jokingly punched me in the throat as he went by. Ha ha! Good one, Gary!

RumbleFish Impressions

While the Superfly 100 feels like a full-suspension bike made for people who love hardtails, the RumbleFish feels…big.


At around 28 pounds and with like eight feet of suspension, you don’t so much ride it up a mountain as you do manage it. I felt too high up on this bike, both when climbing and descending. I found myself shifting often, compensating at every change in gradient for the sluggish feel of the bike.

Now, there are people who will love this bike — I can imagine that my brother in law Rocky would love this bike, for example, because he loves to huck himself down steep boulder fields and 10′ drops.

But that’s not the way I ride. The RumbleFish is for someone else.

Superfly SS

I believe I’ve weighed in sufficiently on the Superfly Singlespeed. I think my feelings about this bike may even be somewhat clear.

So really, I just wanted to show you what the 2010 “now you too can own one” version looks like, and show you that I’ve touched one in real life.

I love the paint scheme for this bike — they’ve moved away from the “carbon weave” look altogether, and it’s about time.


Instead, the colors are matte — not too different from a powder coat look. It looks great.

That’s Mountain Flyer’s Brien Riepe, by the way, ogling my ride. You can check out his impressions of the new Gary Fisher stuff here.

The Superfly Singlespeed will be available as a frame / fork only, which — to me — is just about perfect: I love obsessing over every component when I build a new bike.

However, I hope that once the Switchblade 2 — the G2-corrected carbon fork replacing the current Switchblade — comes out later this year, they’ll make that an option on the frame / fork purchase. Because a lot of us ride rigid.

And this is one sexy-looking fork (pre-production version shown here on Jesse’s bike):


Yeah, I just said a mountain bike fork is sexy. What of it?

And now, let’s finish with one last shot of the top tube, customized especially for me.



Gary Fisher 29er Ride Camp Lecture-Rama LiveBlog

09.11.2009 | 10:07 am

I’ll be liveblogging as Travis Ott describes the bikes we’ll be riding today. I will also try to get pictures of me with as many important and handsome bike celebrities as possible.

But first, breakfast.

The liveblog starts at 9:00am-ish (Mountain Time, naturally, since I’m on a mountain). Come back then and start refreshing the heck out of this page.

‘Til then, I recommend reading the following recent posts, as refresher material:

Liveblog starts soon!

9:04 I am surrounded by very much bike porn.


JHK, Travis Brown, and Gary Fisher are all sitting to my right. It occurs to me, I am the only person here who is not being paid. Also, it occurs to me that I am the only person who does not deserve to be paid.

9:08: Gary has taken the stage and is talking about the history of 29″ wheeled bikes.


I’m pretty sure he’s talking about technical stuff. My mind wanders.

9:13: Gary’s talking about how in 1999 he’d ride the first prototype 29er one day, then a regular 26″ bike the next.


That’s Zapata Espinoza on the slide. I used to idolize that guy. Anyone know where he is now?

9:17: Gary’s (we’re on a first name basis after all) talking about geometry issues they had at first, as well as the difficulty in getting a fork that would work with such a large wheel. Back then, a lot of the prototypes were outsourced. Now, says Gary, “Only Shimano has a larger R&D Dept than we do.”

9:19: Gary’s acknowledging that Gary Fisher wasn’t the first 29er out there. I notice that Gary has skinny legs.

9:24: Dirt Rag is to my left. Bike is to my right. Neither of them has written more than two sentences since I’ve been here. In their defense, there hasn’t been a lot of news so far. This has all been “our story so far…” stuff.



Oh, OK. I know. But still, it’s a funny headline for a slide.

9:31 JHK and Heather take the stage.


Alas, James Huang’s (of CyclingNews) head dominates the photo.

9:32: JHK (personal friend of mine) talks about how his first 29″ bike was a Rig. As the bikes became more refined, he slowly transitioned from sometimes riding 29″ to where he is now: “I honestly believe there is no course on which a 26″ bike is faster.” A bold statement, and one with which I happen to agree.

9:36: Heather talks a bit about how at first she didn’t like the 29″ bikes, Felt like she was “on top of a gigantic machine.”


Then she built up a Medium. At 5′4″ she’s totally comfortable on it and says she “no longer knows where [her] 26″ bike is.”

9:41: I’m pretty sure I’m the only one liveblogging this, which means FatCyclist.com is where you can go to get the news first.

Also, this makes me think: If you’ve got questions for me to ask during the Q&A part of this thing, post them in the comments.

9:45: And now, at long last, we arrive at the present. 2009 v. 2010.


Travis Brown says this is the most refined 29″ bike line ever. He’s been racing these things. Gary jumps in and reminds us that we’re now 10 years into 29″ bikes. These are no longer just a bleeding edge technology. They’re mature now, says the man in matching shirt and cycling cap with Elvis sunglasses.

9:50: Here’s the lineup:


Rumblefish is for “enhancing rider confidence,” fun trail riding. Superfly is for “getting from point A to B as fast as possible.”

9:54: Biggest change is the decreased wheelbase:


Annnd and “Active Braking Pivot.” It’s too bad I can’t talk to the guys sitting on either side of me, because they’d probably understand what the heck that means.

Suspension tweaked, integrated bottom bracket, E2 top tube. Wubba wubba wubba.

10:00 Oh this is cool: new size! XXL debuts.

10:05: And now we start on the Superfly 100 — the bike I think most people are going to be most interested in. JHK says he went into trying this bike without an open mind. He’s “been a hardcore hardtail advocate my whole career.”


He says that now he believes this bike is as efficient as the Superfly hardtail in the climbs, and descends “bonkers.”

10:05: OCLV carbon, G2 geometry, E2 headtube, and the very very important active braking pivot, which I still do not understand. Frame, shock, hardware come in at 2100 grams.

The HiFi is the aluminum version of the same bike. Also, they claim that it will be 20% less sexy. Wow, that’s harsh. Don’t remove sexiness, guys. The world needs more sexiness, not less.

10:10: They’re drilling down on this chart:


I have no idea what it means.

10:12: And now for the Rumblefish — the 29″ trail bike, and the “girls (and boys) just wanna have fun” bike in the lineup.

Suspension design (DRCV for Dual Rate Control Valve I think) is “two stage air spring with small bump sensitivity of a single air canister with big hit control available through second air canister.” Sounds like they’re trying to tell me something, but I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps, “The suspension works more when you hit bigger stuff?”

10:16: Travis Brown is back. May I just say that Travis, besides obviously knowing his stuff and being one of the strongest riders around, is very cool, as evidenced by his Twin Six t-shirt?


Note: Including mine, I believe this makes 3 Twin Six t-shirts in evidence today.

10:20: And now, the Superfly SS. YAAAY. Really, the only thing they’re talking about is the pivoting dropout:


Nice thing with that dropout is that there should be considerably less chatter and squeal under hard braking.

10:24: Looks like there won’t be a Q&A session, but I’ll do what I can to grab some people and answer some of the questions you posted. I pulled Travis Brown aside and asked him some things from your questions:

  • XXL Sizing: If you’re 6′3″ or above you might want to take a look at this size. Travis says his test rider was 6′6″.
  • “Shorter wheelbase equals twitchier ride:” Travis Brown says that’s a reductionist view of the geometry. You need to look at the full recipe of the bike: the front-center (bb to front axle), effective chainstay, trail figure, and other subtleties they’ve factored in. You won’t feel like this bike is twitchy.

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